Jeremy Corbyn shared his dream of a 'green industrial revolution' with environmental campaigners at the Preston New Road fracking site.
The leader of the Labour party met protesters who have been a near-constant presence near the Cuadrilla drilling rig since the company was given the go-ahead to start fracking in October 2016.
He had been invited by Cuadrilla boss Francis Egan to visit the shale gas exploration site ahead of his visit this afternoon, but he told the press he would not be attending.
He said: “Clearly this is an area that Cuadrilla think they are likely to get more returns on than other parts of the country. Lancashire County Council did speak up for the people of Lancashire and did everything it could to prevent fracking taking place because of the environmental dangers and the damage that go with it. Sadly the court overruled them and so it does require a change in government to ensure that fracking ends in Britain.
“I very much admire (the protesters). They have been here for more than two years, they have worked really hard and they’ve helped to get that message out, and the very physical presence of them being here is a constant reminder that people do care about the natural world, do care about their environment, do care about the long-term pollution that fracking causes.”
Labour says if the UK fully exploits its shale gas reserves, the amount of carbon released would ‘eliminate any hope of the government meeting its 2050 net-zero target’.
Mr Corbyn said urgent action was needed to tackle the climate change emergency, including an immediate ban on fracking.
He said: “Instead of bending the knee to a few corporations who profit from extracting fossil fuels from the ground, we need to change course now.”
Protester Miranda Cox, 50, from Kirkham, said: “I think it’s a very welcome move. Obviously I’m delighted to see support from the leader of the opposition.
“It has been good that today’s visit has coincided with a visit from Extinction Rebellion, so we have had a really good show of solidarity, which is fantastic.
“I have been here since October 2016, so this is going to be my third summer. I feel we have definitely raised awareness. I think we have shown the industry and the government that we will not take this challenge to our environment or our community lightly.
“We are here for the long term. We are very resilient and determined. Obviously we get tired being here, but you show great comradeship.”
Councillor Julie Brickles, of Warton and Westby ward, where the fracking site is located, said: “I think it’s about time. (Jeremy Corbyn’s) party are supposedly against fracking and we have been here for two-and-a-half years, so it was time he came down and gave us some support.
“My personal view is that, at the moment, with the climate change protests happening around the country, we are getting much more support. We are not going anywhere.”
Tina Rothery, from the Lancashire Nanas and Frack Free Lancashire groups, said: “He said all the things we desperately need to hear, and what we need the investors to realise, which is that British politics are not in any way stable. Everything they are hoping for relies on a Conservative government. Every other party is against fracking.”